As the Raiders gather for their mandatory minicamp this weekend, JaMarcus Russell isn’t the only player whose job security will be tenuous.
Whether Russell will actually be there, as coach Tom Cable said he would, is open to question. The last thing the Raiders need is an injury which would delay the process of sending him on his way in the wake of the acquisition of Washington quarterback Jason Campbell.
Campbell is already in the area, and was spotted at a Jack London Square restaurant with offensive coordinator Hue Jackson by a reader with a who sent a photo. Russell, meanwhile has been kept out of public view.
Willie Brown’s glowing review of Russell on Comcast last month aside, you talk to a few Raiders employees informally and it’s more of a collective roll of the eyes.
(Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post reported Russell is tipping the scales at 300 pounds).
The Raiders could pull the band-aid off the wound and dispense with Russell quickly unless they’re looking for a way of getting out of paying that last $3 million.
Either way, Russell can’t feel real confident about his status, and only he knows if he cares or wants to try again somewhere else.
If Russell isn’t at minicamp, then Campbell, Charlie Frye and Kyle Boller will get all the work as Bruce Gradkowski recovers from a pectoral tear. (The good news on Gradkowski’s injury is that it was to the left side, and not his throwing side).
A handful of other players, who make far less money, are also less comfortable as the 2010 Raiders begin to take shape.
WR Johnnie Lee Higgins: Coach Tom Cable was clear in his intentions for fourth-round pick Jacoby Ford. It’s also a safe bet Nick Miller, if injured during training camp, won’t be kept on the 53-man roster for 16 weeks this time around.
“I’m looking for that guy to see if he’ll take the reins of our return game and become a guy like that for us. Those are the expectations early on,” Cable said.
Any linebacker not named Rolando McClain, Kamerion Wimbley or Trevor Scott: Cable promises I’ll love how the defensive plan shakes out. If it includes attackers coming from different directions, sometimes as an end, sometimes as a linebacker, and an element of unpredictability, he’s right.
Quintin Groves, a former second-round pick, joins holdovers Thomas Howard, Ricky Brown, Isaiah Ekejiuba, Sam Williams and second-year men Slade Norris and David Nixon. Add sixth-round pick Travis Goethel, who Cable described as being a stout inside player. It’s survival of the fittest (and fastest) with a heavy emphasis on special teams.
Any offensive tackle not named Mario Henderson: Khalif Barnes will probably stick around, but nothing is certain after the picks of Jared Veldheer and Bruce Campbell in the third and fourth rounds. If Campbell ends up as a guard _ Cable said it was a possibility _ it opens up another spot.
Fullback Oren O’Neal: Could be just an oversight, but Cable has now left O’Neal’s name out the last two times he was asked about the fullback position. It’s a good situation for Manase Tonga, the undrafted free agent from BYU and Aragon High in San Mateo, to show if he can be an NFL quality blocker. There are unconfirmed reports the Raiders also signed UCLA fullback Chase Moline, who began his Bruins career as a linebacker.
With undrafted free agents, it’s a difficult to project. A year ago, I received a flood of e-mails and assurances that linebacker Frantz Joseph was a tackling machine and a real find at linebacker. Instead, Joseph looked a step or three slow from the outset and the gem turned out to be Harvard defensive end Desmond Bryant.
With O’Neal’s healthy and Luke Lawton starting the season under suspension, Oakland’s 2010 fullback position is wide open.
Defensive end Jay Richardson: Richardson is a point-of-attack player on a team that hasn’t been a good run-defending team for seven years. The plan for Lemarr Houston, Cable said, is to play end.